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«A Journal of Policy Development and Research HoPe VI Volume 12, Number 1 • 2010 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy ...»

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In their analyses of resource inequality, social processes, and spatial dynamics that might predict rates of homicide, Morenoff, Sampson, and Raudenbush (2001) found that, although the number of local organizations alone was “relatively unimportant” (Morenoff, Sampson, and Raudenbush, 2001: 553), local organizations and social networks were valuable for their ability to “promote the collective efficacy of residents in achieving social control and cohesion” (Morenoff, Sampson, and Raudenbush, 2001: 517).

Cityscape 37Curley

that use of neighborhood facilities had a positive effect on social networks in distressed neighborhoods undergoing renewal in the Netherlands, and Dekker and Filipovic (2008), who found that residents of large housing estates in the Netherlands and Slovenia who reported problems with the upkeep of public space and local services had fewer social ties in the neighborhood and were less positive about social contacts in the neighborhood compared with those who were satisfied with public spaces and services.

Although most of the previously discussed studies highlight the importance of neighborhood institutions for the stability they bring to communities, research on trust and public familiarity suggests that local institutions and public spaces might play another important role. A small number of qualitative studies, although not necessarily making connections to social capital, provide insight in how trust, public familiarity, and social relations can develop in the public domain. By studying social order in “a world of strangers,” Lofland (1973) found that when “conventional encounters occurred repeatedly in a single public locale, they become… one of the mechanisms by which total strangers are transformed into personally-known others” (Lofland, 1973: 168). In other words, when we come across the same people repeatedly in public spaces, we can develop a sense of “public familiarity.” “Public familiarity arises when interdependent anonymous people keep encountering each other…” (Blokland, 2003: 93). In his empirical research on trust, Sztompka (1999) pointed out: “Repeated routines that people follow make it possible to predict their conduct” (Sztompka, 1999: 124) and estimate their “potential trustworthiness” (Sztompka, 1999: 96).

Without opportunities to build public familiarity among other inhabitants in a neighborhood, for example, residents may be prone to have mistrust—a lack of clear expectations, predictability, and security (Sztompka, 1999). Public space may also help foster a sense of community because people come together to display and legitimize their identities in the public domain (Holland et al., 2007).

Blokland (2003) highlighted the importance of the knowledge that can develop over time through encounters in which people become familiar with each other and begin to distinguish among those who may share similar norms and values.

Finally, this article considers how physical neighborhood structures, such as American public housing communities that are imbued with complex and powerful social stigmas, may shape encounters and interactions, not with other coresidents, but with outsiders. Goffman (1963) described the ways in which people are stigmatized based on assumptions of their moral inferiority. Although stigmas based on race, income, gender, and disability prejudices are familiar, public housing residents (many of whom already belong to a categorized and stigmatized group) may suffer from an additional stigma associated with their place of residence. Vale (2002) described the unique stigma, one that is both person- and place-based, that is applied to residents of America’s public housing projects.

The stigma that operates at an individual level through negative associations with a particular person’s race, ethnicity, gender, health status, or behavior is reinforced in public housing by powerful group-based and place-based messages. Public housing forces stigmatized people to experience a bounded and stigmatized environment in two mutually reinforcive ways: as a group of buildings and as a system of rules and preferences. The end result of all this is that the physical environment of public housing often reinforces social stigmas by inducing yet another unwelcome form of group identity: that of project resident. (Vale, 2002: 15)

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Because of this unique stigma, public housing communities may shape residents’ encounters and interactions with people from outside the neighborhood. Nonstigmatized people may choose not to engage with public housing residents due to this persistent social stigma and how it might make them look to other “normals” (nonstigmatized people) (Goffman, 1963: 30). Thus, stigma may be another important mechanism through which neighborhoods can shape a key foundation for social capital—social networks.

The findings from the literature discussed in this section suggest that several neighborhood factors, including population characteristics, institutions, and stigma, may shape trust, social interaction, and social ties among neighbors. The question of which factors are most significant, combined with the gaps in the understanding of social capital development in the context of relocation, warrants further investigation into the potential role of neighborhoods in promoting or inhibiting relocatees’ development of trust and social ties—key foundations for social capital. By further examining the extent to which relocation to different types of neighborhoods shaped perceptions of trust and local social relations, this study seeks to advance the understanding of how social capital may be built in a neighborhood context.

The Study This study assesses neighborhood mechanisms for developing social capital, focusing specifically on the role of neighborhood attributes in shaping perceptions of trust, norms, and reciprocity and social interaction for low-income residents who were relocated from a poverty-concentrated public housing neighborhood as part of the HOPE VI Program. The study poses this key research


To what extent are neighborhood characteristics important for TNR and for interactions with coresidents and outsiders?

A key contribution of this study is the investigation into neighborhood mechanisms for developing trust and relations in the context of a relocation initiative. Thus, a distinctive component of the study is its systematic comparison of different types of relocatees, which enables the assessment of whether those in mixed-income communities, for example, are more likely to trust their neighbors or report shared norms and reciprocity than are public housing residents. Another notable feature of this study is its mixed methodology, combining both quantitative survey data with qualitative interview data to provide a well-rounded data set on relocatees’ experiences in establishing the foundations for social capital in their neighborhoods.

Data Sources and Methodology The data for the study were collected as part of a broad longitudinal evaluation of the Maverick Gardens HOPE VI Program in Boston, Massachusetts.5 The U.S. HOPE VI Program was established in 1993 to redevelop the “most severely distressed” public housing projects in the nation into new The Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University conducted the study between 2002 and 2007.

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mixed-income communities of opportunity (HUD, 2008a) (see also Popkin, Katz et al., 2004).6 To redevelop these areas, HOPE VI involves the large-scale relocation of residents, most of whom move off site to private-market housing with portable vouchers7 or to other traditional public housing developments. Some relocated households return to the new mixed-income housing when it is completed, while others remain permanently off site.

Selected for HOPE VI redevelopment in 2002, Maverick Gardens was originally constructed in 1941 in line with the typical “barracks” style design for public housing built in the United States during that era. The development was located on an 8-acre site at the end of a dead end street, consisted of 12 brick buildings (413 units) with flat roofs surrounded by paved interior walkways, and had no streets running through it. One side of the development abutted a rundown park with remarkable views of Boston Harbor and the city beyond. Its location across the harbor in East Boston meant Maverick Gardens was somewhat isolated from the larger Boston community. To get downtown and to most other Boston neighborhoods, residents had to drive over a bridge or through a tunnel under the harbor (both required a $3 toll) or take the subway ($3 round trip).

Although its physical location contributed to some feelings of isolation, Maverick Gardens was situated only about two blocks from the bustling Maverick Square, which houses a subway station and numerous restaurants, shops, and services catering to the large local Hispanic population.

At the beginning of the HOPE VI program, the Maverick Gardens population was 47 percent Hispanic, 26 percent African American, 15 percent Asian, and 12 percent White (Fitzgerald and Curley, 2003). According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Maverick Gardens was in a census tract with a poverty rate of 43 percent and a non-White population of 50 percent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).8 The Maverick Gardens HOPE VI Program lasted from 2002 until 2007, with the demolition of buildings and relocation of residents beginning in 2003 and construction ending in 2006. When The program seeks to reduce the concentration of poverty and the housing density in the developments, build housing that blends in with the surrounding community, create streets that connect the developments to the abutting areas, strengthen management, and provide supportive social services (HUD, 2008a). The initiative targets housing developments that suffer from physical deterioration, high rates of crime, chronic unemployment, welfare dependency, inadequate services, and high concentrations of extremely poor residents, minorities, and single-parent families.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as the Section 8 Rental Voucher Program, was created in 1974 to assist “very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.” This portable voucher program enables such households to select their own units in the private market. “The housing voucher family must pay 30 percent of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard the family is required to pay the additional amount” (HUD, 2008b: 2).

Maverick Gardens stands out from many other HOPE VI sites in a number of important ways. First, Maverick Gardens was a relatively small development with fewer units and less density than many other public housing developments around the country. For example, Maverick Gardens had 413 units and no highrise buildings compared with Chicago’s Cabrini-Green development, which at one time housed 15,000 people, or Robert Taylor Homes, which housed 27,000 people (see http:// www.thecha.org). In addition, compared with many other public housing communities, Maverick Gardens was not as isolated from transportation and other services and was in a prime real estate location with waterfront views of the downtown urban landscape. The population of Maverick Gardens also differed because nearly one-half of the population was of Hispanic origin;

in many other HOPE VI communities residents were predominantly African American (Popkin et al., 2002). Further, the Greater Boston housing market for rentals was among the tightest in the country during the Maverick Gardens HOPE VI Program (2002–07), with relatively high and steadily increasing prices and low vacancy rates (vacancy rates were about 3 percent for the Greater Boston area in the year 2000 compared with the national average of 7 percent) (Comey, Briggs, and Weismann, 2008).

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the redevelopment was completed in late 2006 and all new units were occupied, just under one-half of the original 375 households (48 percent) returned to the new mixed-income community, which was renamed Maverick Landing, and slightly more than one-half remained in their relocation units for a variety of reasons related to choices and constraints (see Curley, 2004; Curley and Fitzgerald, 2007). Those who did not return to the site remained permanently off site in other public housing developments (23 percent), with portable vouchers (17 percent), in market-rate housing (3 percent), or in homes they purchased (2 percent).9 This article investigates residents from the three main relocation groups—HOPE VI (the new community), public housing, and voucher users—focusing on their perceptions of trust and their interactions and social tie formation in their neighborhoods. Two key data sources were used: the final post-HOPE VI resident survey and repeated indepth resident interviews.

A longitudinal resident survey was conducted to track changes in resident outcomes over time. The surveys covered a wide range of topics, including relocation, neighborhood conditions, social services usage and service needs, social networks, employment, income, economic stability, and adult and child health. Surveys were implemented before relocation and redevelopment, 1 year later (in the middle of relocation and demolition), and 6 months after the redevelopment was completed.

A multilingual staff of sociology and social work graduate students, who had prior survey or community work experience, or both, conducted the survey interviews.10 The surveys were translated into Spanish and Vietnamese and interviewers read all questions aloud and recorded respondents’ answers on the surveys. They conducted most survey interviews, which lasted about an hour each, in residents’ homes and provided respondents a $25 gift card to a local supermarket for their time.

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